Illinois progresses with solar program RFQs and a community solar clearinghouse website

Illinois is steadily moving toward implementing its solar programs under the Future Energy Jobs Act, particularly the community solar, and low and moderate income/nonprofit-public sector initiatives.

As part of this, two important activities are underway. The Illinois Power Agency (IPA) posted Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) for Program Administrators for the Adjustable Block Program, which pays out the solar renewable energy credits under the IPA’s Long Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan (Plan), and the Illinois Solar For All Program, which handles the low and moderate income aspects.

Response are due back by February 12th, and are indications the IPA wants the programs to be active in the final phase, actual transactions, as soon as possible after the expected Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approval on April 3rd.

Another important element is how education, outreach and marketing will occur on a broad basis so that the public has equitable access to information about the new Illinois programs, particularly community solar. Several efforts are underway to create platforms that will provide interested parties with equitable access to community solar projects. One such undertaking is solarinthecommunity.com, a free website designed to be a clearinghouse for three groups interested in community solar projects – developers, potential subscribers and community organizations seeking to act as facilitators in the process.

The website will have basic information about community solar and its specific elements available as frequently asked questions relevant to Illinois. Developers will have the opportunity to load proposed community solar installations with details of its location, offerings, and project status. Prospective subscribers, whether residential or non-residential, will be able to examine these projects, as well as post their own interest in how much solar electricity they’re willing to buy, what they’re looking to pay and for how long.

Potential subscribers will also have the option to enable developers to contact them with proposed offerings. Community organizations will have the ability to propose potential sites for community solar installations, organize potential subscribers and do other functions to bring activity to their area.

The intention of the website is to supplement, not supplant, community solar development in Illinois. Developers and community organizations will still need to have their own operations and resources, especially “on the ground”. The site is not designed for actual transactions, either for project execution or subscriptions; those will be left up to the contractual parties that will have to operate under FEJA legislation and IPA and ICC regulations. Staff will be engaged by the website developer for quality control purposes and provide guidance for developers and community groups.

Solarinthecommunity.com is sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund, Illinois Citizens Utility Board and Elevate Energy of Chicago. It is expected to go fully “live” after ICC approval of the IPA Plan, and will be accepting pre-registration and preliminary project information beforehand.